Ukraine Conflict Monitor, Sept. 19-26, 2017

Ukraine 101:

  • No significant developments.

West’s leverage over Russia:

  • No significant developments.

Russia’s leverage over West:

  • No significant developments.

Russia’s leverage over Ukraine:

  • No significant developments.

Casualties and costs for Russia, West and Ukraine:

  • From Sept. 19 to Sept. 26, four Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action in the Donbas and two were killed, the press center of Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) headquarters has reported. No separatist casualties were reported. (UNIAN, 09.25.17, 09.24.17, 09.23.17, 09.21.17)

Impact of Russia’s actions vis-à-vis Ukraine on other countries:

  • Thousands of Polish and other NATO troops launched major defensive exercises in Poland’s north that will run through Sept. 29. Other participating nations are NATO members as well as partner nations Georgia and Ukraine. (AP, 09.21.17)
  • The U.S. Army has published a handbook on how to defeat Russia’s hybrid-warfare strategy. The Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook, published in December 2016 and recently released over the internet, examines Russian hybrid military tactics and how the U.S. military can counter them. (The National Interest, 09.22.17)

Red lines and tripwires:

  • No significant developments.

Factors and scenarios that could cause resumption of large-scale hostilities or lead to accident between Western and Russian forces in Europe:

  • After months of buildup and about a week of official training activity, Russia and Belarus wrapped up their joint Zapad military exercise. Belarus said on Sept. 20 that the West had no reason to fear an attack by Russia or that Moscow would leave behind forces. Russian air force units began to redeploy to Russian airfields from Belarus on Sept. 21. Russian President Putin and his Belarussian counterpart observed the war games separately. (Newsweek, 09.21.17, The Washington Post, 09.18.17, Belta, 09.21.17, Reuters, 09.20.17, Russian Military Analysis blog, 09.21.17,, 09.20.17)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Sept. 19 scoffed at the suggestion that the United States might have to defend Sweden against a Russian attack even though Sweden is not a member of NATO. (AP, 09.19.17)

Arming and training of Ukrainian forces by Western countries:

  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said after a six-minute meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump they had a shared vision on a “new level” of defense cooperation, but not whether this included the U.S. provision of defensive weapons to Ukraine. Trump, for his part, said of Ukraine: “I wouldn't say it’s the easiest place to live” but “it's getting better and better on a daily basis. I do hear very good things. Ukraine is coming along pretty well.” (RFE/RL, 09.21.17, Reuters, 09.21.17)
  • The United States would violate its international obligations if it decides to ship lethal weapons to Ukraine, Mikhail Ulyanov, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s arms control division, said on Sept. 26. (Interfax, 09.26.17)

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • Ukraine must set up a credit register, ensure further privatization, and lift trade restrictions with the European Union in order to receive the final installment of a 600-million-euro financial aid package, according to Valdis Dombrovskis, the European commissioner for financial services. (RFE/RL, 09.20.17)
  • Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who went on to become a leading Ukrainian politician, has warned Ukraine "will continue to break up" unless the government improves the economy and reins in the scourge of corruption that has blighted the country since independence. (Telegraph, 09.24.17)


  • Hal Brands, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies : “U.S.-Russia tensions are rooted primarily in the deep-seated clash between America’s desire to preserve and expand the liberal international order, and the desire of Russian policymakers to resist, revise and undermine that order. Putin himself has been explicitly telling us this in both his rhetoric and his policies, particularly the invasion of Georgia in 2008, the invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the intervention in Syria in 2015 and the ongoing efforts to undermine NATO and the European Union and meddle in Western political processes.” (The Washington Post, 09.22.17)

Other important news:

  • Ukraine’s president on Sept. 25 signed a controversial law that restructures Ukraine’s education system and specifies that Ukrainian will be the main language used in schools, rolling back the option for lessons to be taught in other languages. Russia, Moldova, Hungary and Romania have expressed concerns that the bill would infringe on the rights of ethnic minorities. Romania’s president canceled a visit to Ukraine next month to protest the education law. A number of provisions of the new Ukrainian legislation on education signed by President Petro Poroshenko are inappropriate, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said. (AP, 09.26.17, AP, 09.20.17, Interfax, 09.26.17)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dismissed a Russian proposal to deploy U.N. peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine, Following the last week meeting with Donald Trump, Poroshenko said Trump had supported Ukraine’s proposal to deploy U.N peacekeepers “including on the uncontrolled part of the Ukraine-Russia border, which would prevent the possibility of penetration by Russian troops or Russian weapons.” This week Poroshenko told Canadian media that Russia’s involvement in the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to protect members of the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine is “absolutely impossible.” (Reuters, 09.20.17, Reuters, 09.21.17, TASS, 09.26.17) 
  • Russia’s deputy foreign minister said Moscow will press ahead with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan for U.N. peacekeepers in Ukraine, even after the effort stalled in the face of opposition from Washington and Kiev this week. (Bloomberg, 09.20.17)
  • The U.N. human rights office said in a report on Sept. 25 that Russia is violating international law in Crimea, including by imposing Russian citizenship on its people and deliberately transferring hundreds of prisoners and detainees to prisons in Russia. (AP, 09.25.17)
  • The international journalist organization Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project has claimed Ukraine is involved in a network that is illegally re-exporting arms from EU countries to Africa and the Middle East. (Interfax, 09.26.17)